Two-minute noodles heralded the beginning of instant solutions. The latest is allotment of the permanent account number (PAN) to individuals who have Aadhaar. This facility is not available to others like Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), firms and companies for the simple reason that only individuals are identified by Aadhaar.
Before logging on to the income-tax website, one must make sure that his/her name, gender, address, date of birth and mobile number all have been provided to the Unique Identification Authority (UID) and the same is furnished accurately without slightest discrepancy in the online PAN application. An online system is capable of matching the two sets of information. Even the slightest discrepancy would result in rejection of the application for which it cannot be faulted.
If the mobile number was not furnished while obtaining Aadhaar, it must be furnished to the UID before seeking the instant PAN because verification is done by the Income Tax website through a one-time password (OTP) sent to the applicant's mobile number. Thus, instant PAN can be obtained in a few seconds. Being e-PAN, it would be followed by a physical or hardcopy PAN in a card form sent through post.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has said that this facility would be available for a short duration. Pray why? Is it because it is free? As it is, the online application for PAN operated by National Securities Depository Limited (NSDL) is completed only on payment of a fee of Rs 110 online through a card or net banking. Even under this extant scheme, for Aadhaar holders, there is no need to submit name and address proofs because they are imported from the UID website by the Income Tax website. There is, therefore, no reason why the instant PAN allotment regime cannot be institutionalised permanently. If a fee waiver is the only difference between the extant scheme and the new instant scheme, let a fee be charged and the instant scheme made permanent.
In the USA, for instance, there is no separate PAN or a document akin to it taken for individuals. Instead, Social Security Number (SSN) doubles up as the identification number for income tax purposes as well. Are we slowly but steadily moving in that direction? The instant PAN seems to herald it. If the information contained in the two identity documents are the same, then why have two documents and costly duplication of efforts and time? When GST was at its conceptual stage, it was widely believed that PAN would be the GST number as well but now we have a separate GSTN thus resulting in at least three identity documents---Aadhaar, PAN, and GSTN. The three can be fused into one.
The Income Tax Department has been exhorting people to link their PAN with Aadhaar. Only recently it was constrained to extend the deadline for making this linkage by 31 March 2019. The department’s fetish on linking the two documents is to eliminate ghosts often used by wily tax evaders to report a huge income in the names of several persons to get away with a lower tax or no tax at all. Instead of repeatedly asking people to do such linking, it can arm itself with the power to establish such linkage and the computer will throw out error signals.
The taxpayers can be informed about the incongruity in the information furnished to the two authorities. But this won’t be necessary for the neo-converts who obtain PAN instantly after having received Aadhaar with all the requisite information furnished because the linkage would be established automatically on the birth of PAN. In fact, PAN would be denied under the instant scheme if the applicant fails to establish a symbiotic relationship between Aadhaar and PAN by not ensuring information symmetry.
Aadhaar is the mother identity document with PAN and mobile company providing subsidiary or supporting identity numbers or documents.
When there are multiple records, there is a need to reconcile all but if the mother document is seen as the unique identity document by all the authorities---income tax, GST and others---the nation would have saved itself a lot of unnecessary efforts and reconciliation. It is said the wheel should not be reinvented. One can say, identity should not be repeatedly asked to be proved.
(The writer is a senior columnist and tweets @smurlidharan)
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Updated Date: Jul 02, 2018 14:40:30 IST